You could hear the shells hurling down, deep thudding explosions. We couldn’t see them. In those first days after we crossed the river we were in the woods and the battles were always just ahead of us. We marched on down the dusty roads and the air was thick with heat and the night woods were alive with the buzz of insects. Still in the night the light of bombs and artillery sometimes flickered. The Russians were retreating, running from us. At night we made places to sleep in open fields and in the shelter of trees and our packs and our bedrolls were grainy with dust. Dust and night buzzing.
We slept on the ground but I am in a bed. Light flickers. I think it’s a storm. Light flashes and I see the outline of the window, the bedstand with a lamp on it. I’m in my room. I always hated these storms. They made me wake at night and cry out. I would waken and my dear Alena would awake also, at my crying. She curled up with me and held me. She pressed her belly against my back and I could feel my shoulders soften, my arms relax. Oh how I miss that magic. My shoulders, my legs, they are taut even now. I never learned that secret of feeling safe all on my own. It’s almost fifty years you’re gone, Alena, and I still miss you each night a storm passes. You were the only island of safety I ever had, that could soften me and help me rest again.